ISSN 1652–7224   :::   Published November 16, 2005
“Helping Dancers to Dance Healthier, Stronger and Longer”

A brief report on the International Association for Dance Medicine and Science (IADMS)
15th Annual Conference in Stockholm, November 2005

Sanna Nordin
London Sport Institute, Middlesex University

This was my first conference related to dance, and as such the first venture outside large-scale international but largely North American sport psychology conferences. It proved to be a valuable experience.

Held in central Stockholm at Balettakademien and Norra Real, the conference was at a location convenient for everything from dance movement sessions to sightseeing. Particularly Norra Real’s beautiful interiors were a welcome distraction from the dull weather outside! Despite Stockholm not showing itself off to its full potential, however, it still proved to have much to offer, both academically and socially.

Princess Christina, Mrs Magnusson, was the conference’s main patron and inaugurated the conference on the first day. After this rather grand opening, a series of other impressive and enjoyable social events followed in rapid succession. How about organised city sightseeing, a guided tour of old town, and an especially organised visit and reception at Dansmuseet (The Swedish Dance Museum)? Well, that was all just on the pre-conference day!

When the conference got started, the difference between dance science and its “bigger sister” sports science became clear rather quickly.  For example, those of us with a sports science background were quite surprised to find discussions on ethical standards for experimental research with dancers much like those we had at undergraduate level. But, IADMS is a very diverse organisation with members from not only academic dance/sports science backgrounds, but also applied practitioners and medical doctors. Combine such diverse job descriptions with the many different subject areas under IADMS’s umbrella (medicine, psychology, physiology, nutrition, biomechanics, etc.), and it is perhaps unsurprising that a more coherent set of guidelines do not yet exist.

The quality of presentations were as varied as the background of the conference delegates. Ranging from “hardcore” science presentations to pure descriptions of issues and examples of good practice, it is evident that dance science has a long way to go until a solid standard has been reached with regards to research. Still, there were several excellent presentations that deserve a mention. For example, Marijeanne Liederbach’s (Harkness Center for Dance Injuries, New York) presentations on muscle performance in amenorrheic versus eumenorrheic and male dancers and on injury risk factors and tracking were very interesting – am I’m not even a physiologist!

Similarly impressive were the presentations by the Trinity Laban wellness team (London) about their development of a longitudinal inter-disciplinary screening program for full time dance students. I also heard that I missed out by not attending Eric Franklin’s (imagery and conditioning educator) workshop on “releasing shoulder and neck tension for better dance technique” and Janet Karin’s (injury prevention specialist, The Australian Ballet School) workshop entitled “talent and trickery: replicating ideal motor patterning.”

Other more applied presentations that were well appreciated included one on stress management for dancers by Linda Hamilton (New York City Ballet Wellness Program and The Ailey School) and Marika Molnar (Westside Dance Physical Therapy and New York City Ballet, New York). We were also impressed by Gabriella Herr’s and Ginette Hamel’s (Artists’ Health Centre, Toronto) presentation of their inter-professional collaboration in an occupational health clinic for professional artists, which integrates traditional and alternative treatment modalities.  

With regards to presentation modalities, the conference included not only the typical lectures and symposia, but also valuable round table discussions and movement sessions. However, there were very few posters. Perhaps this is a consequence of there not being many presentations overall, but it highlights that the field and the organisation definitely has space for many, many more participants and presentations! Boosting numbers would probably also gradually result in higher quality presentations. But given the enthusiasm and dedication of the people that I met, I am confident that this is a challenge that IADMS will meet! It is also likely that valuable lessons can be learned from the related fields of sport and exercise science, both concerning scientific rigor and applied practice.

By contrast, conference organisation seems to be an area in which at least sport psychology can learn from dance! Certainly I have never attended a conference where there were so many, varied, and well-organised events taking place. On the evening of the first actual conference day, we were invited by the City of Stockholm for a reception at the City Hall (where the Nobel Prize ceremonies are held). The second evening presented the opportunity for a three-act performance by the renowned contemporary Cullberg Ballet. One of these acts was a world premiére, and we were invited to attend the premiére party with the company that followed. The third and final conference day included a performance by the Royal Swedish Ballet at the Opera House, also followed by a reception. The world-class level of these performances as well as the opportunities to drink champagne with not just conference delegates but also dancers and company directors was much appreciated!

Although I did not attend, there was also a special interest groups day after the end of the main conference. This included a day for dance teachers, dance kinesiologists, and orthopaedic surgeons. That evening saw another performance of contemporary dance at the Modern Dance Theatre. And for those who had still not had enough, there was a post-conference day with a guided tour of the Drottningholm palace and court theatre (Confidencen), as well as a short performance and lunch at Karolinska Institutet. Phew – and sport psychology conference organisers, take note…

 Thank you IADMS, for the most well-organised conference that I have ever attended!  |  Redaktörer Bo Carlsson & Kjell E. Eriksson  |  Ansvarig utgivare Aage Radmann